“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
My sister once told me that she wanted to raise her son to be a good person. She said the only way to do that was to lead by example. For her, this meant smiling at strangers, talking to neighbors, carrying dog food in her car for homeless pets, and giving hot coffee to homeless men and women on cold winter days. She does not tell people she does this, and she does not look for accolades, or need of praise.
Karma yoga or seva is selfless service without any thought of reward or repayment. When your actions originate from a place of gratitude and service, the giving is the reward. Although many of us think of seva as solely volunteering our time, or donating money to an organization, seva is ideally the basis of your every action.
In your everyday life, this may look like posting a status on Facebook without a care or need to check if someone liked it. It may be dedicating your entire yoga practice to service: service of your health, your well-being, and your mental state, without grasping, worrying, or forcing anything to occur. To live from a place of service requires that each of us let go, relax, and surrender. When we really start acting from a place of service, we stop grasping in different directions by centering ourselves. Our mind and heart becomes a single unit. When done repetitively, our inner sense of harmony is activated. This not only creates a union between our inner emotional state and our external environment, but we also become more aware of the sensations of disharmony.
Yoga is said to activate our inner compass; we become tuned into our body’s signals when we are off our path. From a consistent yoga and meditation practice, we begin to notice our emotional, mental, and physical states, and how tension and stress manifest in our bodies. We learn how it feels to be living in harmony and how it feels to fall off balance. From this awareness, we can change our habits, thought patterns, and behaviors to affect ourselves in a positive manner. When you incorporate seva into your daily rituals, you begin to notice how you are an integral component of your environment and community; thus selfless aid to another is actually supporting and giving to the entire world around you.
The easiest way you can perform seva in your everyday life is to say “please,” “thank you,” and smile at strangers. Pick up litter off the sidewalk and throw it away. Prop up a sign that is knocked over. Tell someone they have food in their teeth. Read the lost pet flyers and keep an eye out for the missing animal. Listen to someone when they speak. Support a friend’s decision. Donate to a cause you believe in (even just five dollars). Be kind. Be vulnerable. Let people see you… the real you.
Seva is to give from your heart. When you act selflessly, your heart aligns with your actions. You begin to light up from the inside out. You start to act, speak, and live your truth. When you shine bright from this place of giving, you unknowingly create a space where fear lessens and other people feel compelled to start giving themselves generously. To be in service to others is to help create a world where people give, support, and aid each other.